08/30/2006 11:00PM

Calista Ridge back on the dirt for Matron


A winner of five straight races before making a rare and unsuccessful attempt on the turf, Calista Ridge returns to her favorite surface as the starting highweight in Saturday night's $75,000 Matron Stakes at Evangeline Downs. She will join nine other fillies and mares in the one-mile race, the ninth of 10 races.

Calista Ridge's winning streak - before her steady retreat in the Matchmaker over the Louisiana Downs turf two weeks ago - included front-running scores in the James Sebastien Memorial Stakes against Louisiana-breds at Evangeline Downs in early July, as well as a victory in the Seven Stars Stakes over the Louisiana Downs main track in mid-June. A 4-year-old daughter of Belek, she is trained by Noral Tate. She has been assigned 120 pounds for the Matron and will be ridden by Ricky Faul.

Plaid had a winning streak of her own snapped in her last start, the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park on Aug. 5. Trained by Scott Blasi while Steve Asmussen serves a six-month suspension, Plaid, a 5-year-old Deputy Commander mare, has proven versatile for her connections this year, winning over both dirt and turf and over four different ovals. Her stalk-and-pounce running style should also serve her well with ample early pace to sit behind. Donnie Meche will ride at 117 pounds.

Cutie Sabrina comes off an upset win in the $100,000 Louisiana Breeders' Oaks at Louisiana Downs, and she has beaten older company before. A 3-year-old daughter of Toolighttoquit trained by Abel Blanchard, she has a high turn of early foot, which could set the stage for an early duel with fellow Louisiana-bred Calista Ridge. Regular rider Billy Patin will once again be in the saddle at 115 pounds.

Space Cruise, a recent allowance winner at Louisiana Downs, will make the journey south along with trainer Pat Mouton and rider E.J. Perrodin. She has not finished worse than second in three local tries and will also carry 115 pounds.